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Report: Dutchess County should build new jail

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Albany/HV: Report: Dutchess County should build new jail
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It's time to bring the inmates back to Poughkeepsie says a new report on the overflowing Dutchess County Jail. To make room, shovels must hit the ground. YNN's John Wagner has the details.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- "We're only seeing an increase in the housing out. It's not decreasing. It's getting worse and worse over time," said Mary Ellen Still, Criminal Justice Council Chairperson.

There is no room left at this inn. The solution is two pronged, says a criminal justice council report requested by Executive Mark Molinaro: Build a new jail from scratch at a new site and boost efforts to keep tabs on inmates and their risk levels.

Still said, "About 80 percent of our jail population is un-sentenced."

"About 90 percent or more of the people that are in our jail return to our community, so if they're going to return to the community to commit more crime, we basically spent money to put them on a shelf for a while," said Acting Public Defender Tom Angell.

By using a consultant to analyze inmate data, the report says they can slow the revolving door, keeping non-violent inmates in rehab programs rather than in jail cells.

"They can receive the programming they need, we can target recidivism and we can stop paying those housing out costs and reinvest those dollars into building a new jail," said Still.

On average, the jail holds a little over 250 inmates. But this past month, more than 500 were jailed at one time. About 20 percent of the jail budget goes to housing out prisoners, likely topping $7 million this year.

The report projects it would cost between $78 and $184 million to build a campus style jail to hold between 500 and 650 inmates. It suggests using Poughkeepsie property formerly part of Hudson River Psychiatric Center and with an efficient, modern, less staff intensive building, they hope to save $170 million in 15 years, but that comes through cutting the corrections staff nearly in half.

Still said, "Have fewer staff, more programming, move people through the system more quickly."

A probable lively public hearing will be held in mid-October and the county legislature is expected to take action by next spring, with the goal to have a new jail by 2016.

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